Issue 11-30 July 27, 2017

Cover photo © 2017 Bob Kieser

 In This Issue 

Don Wilcock has our feature interview with the amazing Rick Estrin. We have 10 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from The Jon Spear Band, Nick Schnebelen, Brad Stivers, The Soul Of John Black, Big Daddy Wilson, The Great Fraud, Chris Belleau, Rebekah Meldrum & Paul Holdman, John Lee Hooker and The Mojo Stars.

Our video of the week is Rick Estrin. It is one ALL harmonica players MUST see!

We have the latest in Blues society news. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!

 From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

Please remember that our friends at the Prairie Dog Blues Fest are having their 20th Blues festival this weekend in Prairie du Chien, WI and it is gonna be a real party! On Friday, July 28th they have Annika Chambers, Laith Al-Saadi, The Groove Hogs and headliner Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials. Plus they will have ZZ top Tribute Band, Eliminator playing in the beer tent between acts.

On Saturday, July 29th they feature Chris Avey Band, Lil’ Davy Max, Ray Fuller & The Bluesrockers, Southern Avenue, Carolyn Wonderland and headliner Eric Sardinas & Big Motor with Kris Lager Band playing in the beer tent between sets. Don’t miss this one! For more information click here or visit

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

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Have You Voted Yet?

Fan voting for the 2017 Blues Blast Music Awards continues until August 15th. We offer you the ability to actually hear the music of the nominees before you vote by going to our Soundcloud listening site at

You can only vote one time so listen first and then vote NOW at!

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 10 

jon spear band cd imageThe Jon Spear Band – Hot Sauce

Self Release

12 tracks / 50:53

It is not easy for working bands to get together the dosh to pay for studio time, but if a group has a good fan base, sometimes they can put together a crowd funding effort to make it possible. The Jon Spear Band was able to make this happen, courtesy of their loyal followers, and their Kickstarter campaign convinced more than 70 people to pledge funds towards their latest release. Well, it was worth it as Hot Sauce is a solid collection of blues tunes.

Though the Jon Spear Band has only been around for a few years, its members each have more than enough experience in the music business; in fact, Spear has been working professionally since the 1960s. This Virginia-based group only has a few records in their catalog (three, I think), but they have already been to the IBCs in Memphis twice, as their music is alluring and their live show is awesome. The line-up for this crew includes Jon Spear and Dara James on guitars and vocals (they switch off for leads on both) with a rhythm section of Andy Burdetsky on bass and John Stubblefield on drums.

Hot Sauce was recorded at Ravenwood Studios in Scottsville, Virginia with the engineering done by the producer, Andrew Waldeck, who is also quite a musician. The setlist includes a dozen songs, all of them originals that were written by the band and their friends. Themes for these tunes run the gamut from fun to serious, and there are a few history lessons included too!

The band has a sense of humor, as can be heard from tracks such as “Butt Dial Kyle” (no explanation needed), and the swinging rockabilly of “Really Great Gig.” Another upbeat tune is a real winner, “Hot Sauce,” which uses an endless list of similes to compare a lady to an array of spicy concoctions. This tune features amazing sax work from guest artist Ron Holloway (Warren Haynes Band), and very slick lead guitar from Dara James. Dara has a soulful voice, and he really howls on this rhythm and blues track.

But everything is not kicks and giggles on this release, as the band is also able to take on more serious subjects too. They wrote songs about the despair of the homeless (“Wintertime”), man’s insatiable craving to kill every other animal on the planet (”Noah’s Blues”), and a note of appreciation to our servicemen (“Blues for a Soldier’). The latter is a nice piece of blues-rock with a modern and melodic sound. This is a well-crafted track with the triple threat of killer guitar tone, the solid backline of Burdetsky and Stubblefield, and Hammond B3 courtesy of guest artist Butch Taylor.

In the history category, the band runs down the story of Pierre Jourdan’s death in 1814, and you will learn that this famous New Orleans gambler killed himself after losing his home in a card game. “Pierre Jourdan” is presented as a stripped down acoustic tune with Spears on vocals and guest artist Matty Metcalf on accordion, which provides the appropriate Crescent City vibe. There is also “Natchez Burning” which remembers the tragic Rhythm Club fire in Natchez Mississippi that killed over two hundred folks. James’ vocals and Dobro take the lead on this stripped-down acoustic song, and backing vocals are provided by Yolanda Jones and Nathaniel Star. Make sure you play the whole track, as there is a bonus jam at the end.

Hot Sauce is a fun album from The Jon Spear Band, and there is a little something for everybody in it. It is nice to see a band put the time and effort into writing and working out an entire disc of new music, and fortunately it has very good production too. You will have the chance to hear some of these tunes in person if you choose to hit up one of their shows in Virginia this summer. The band does a great job with their live shows too, so make sure you check out their website dates and venues!

Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at

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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 10 

nick schneblenNick Schnebelen – Live In Kansas City

VizzTone Label Group VT-NSB02

10 songs – 52 minutes

Nick Schnebelen exploded onto the blues scene in 2008 when his family band, Trampled Under Foot, walked away winners at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis and he was bestowed the Albert King Award as best guitar player in the competition. With Tennessee in his tail lights, however, he’s pretty much remained out of the spotlight in the years that followed, with his sister, Danielle Nicole, serving as the face of the group and establishing herself as one of the top vocalists and bass players on the planet.

TUF won 2014 Blues Music Awards for band and album of the year, but disbanded months later — something you’d expect from siblings who’ve played together since their teen years. Nick’s brother Kris left first, spent time with Albert Castiglia, Amanda Fish and Lauren Anderson before settling into the drummer’s seat behind Sean Chambers, and his older siblings eventually decided it was time to start bands of their own, albeit with occasional breaks for TUF reunions.

Captured on stage last Dec. 3 at the famed Knuckleheads Saloon before launching a world tour, Nick makes his recording debut as a band leader with Live In Kansas City, fronting a power blues trio in the format fans know him for. Rounding out the lineup are the highly respected rhythm section of drummer Adam Hagerman — who’s toured with a who’s who of blues and country acts, including Junior Watson, Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King, Junior Watson and Big Bill Morganfield — and bassist Cliff Moore, who backed Michael Burks for years.

A powerful left-handed guitar player, Nick’s also a strong singer in his own right, and his vocals cut like a knife atop the music throughout this enjoyable set, which features four of his own originals, two of Danielle’s and four covers, most of which deal with relationship themes. The self-penned “Fool” kicks off the action. A brief guitar run precedes an extended vocal that resembles a field holler as Schnebelen sings about the agony he endures by being addicted to love. The rhythm section doesn’t join in to heat things up until mid-tune.

Another solid original, “Pain In My Mind,” carries the message forward. This time the pain originates from the memory of experiencing a broken heart. Nick updates Muddy Waters’ “Herbert Harper’s Free Press News,” introduced with an extended drum solo, before “You Call That Love,” written by Danielle and a mainstay in the TUF catalog. It’s a slow-blues burner of the first order that features a searing guitar solo.

Written by drummer/producer Tony Braunagel, a mainstay in the Taj Mahal/Phantom Blues Band, “Bad Woman Blues” changes the mood with its syncopated and uptempo beat. Schnebelen’s on slide as he wonders why a lady would cheat on a good man. The tune leads effortlessly into a version of Johnny Winter’s Mean Town Blues.”

Another TUF fan favorite, “Jonny Cheat,” follows before the Nick original, “Bad Disposition,” which details sleepless nights and torment after falling for a woman with a mean attitude. “Schoolnight,” written by Chris Schultz, and the original, “Conformity Blues,” show off Schnebelen’s jazz chops to bring the album to a close.

Live In Kansas City is a rock-solid debut by someone who deserves your ear and attention. Available through most online retailers, it’s a showcase for a star on the ascendant. If you like TUF, you’ll love this. And good news: Nick’s already got another album in the planning stages.

Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

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 Featured Blues Video Of The Week – Rick Estrin 

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No hands! – Rick Estrin on the 2012 Blues Cruise.(Click image to watch!)

The first time I saw Estrin play with no hands he was with Little Charlie & The Nitecats at the Mississippi Valley Blues Fest in 2007. I was standing in front next to David Berntson, a talented harmonica player and friend. I asked David “How the hell does he do that?” David replied, “One word…genius!”

If you’ve never seen Rick Estrin’s harmonica genius check out this video. Then look for him touring in the West in September. Get there!

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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 10 

brad stivers cd imageBrad Stivers – Took You Long Enough

VizzTone Label Group

10 Tracks/37:02

Originally from California, singer and guitarist Brad Stivers eventually ended up in Colorado to attend college. Having developed a love of blues from listening to his brother’s record collection, he started playing in local clubs, putting together his band, Bad Brad & the Fat Cats. The group had two releases, with the second title, Take A Walk With Me, garnering a positive Blues Blast review in 2014. That same year the band made the finals at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, sponsored by the Blues Foundation.

Stivers has spent the last couple of years plying his trade as a member of the Austin, TX music community. His new project extends his vision beyond the blues to soul, country, and R&B. He starts off rocking on “2000 Miles,” one of five originals. Listeners immediately get a healthy dose of Stivers’blazing guitar picking. Another of his tunes, “Put It Down,” is a spirited guitar showcase that mixes rockabilly with a sprinkling of country twang. The title track is centered on a funky riff and the potent interplay between the Stivers’ vocal and guitar. “Can’t Wait” is exactly the kind of punchy shuffle you would expect to hear from a Texas band. Things get real lowdown on the minor key slow blues, “Save Me,” as the leader’s guitar adopts a dark, foreboding tone.

Emily Gimble adds her sweet voice and plays piano on the classic barroom weeper, “Her We Go Again,” with Eric Przygocki on upright bass, while Malford Milligan joins in for a passionate duet on “Nickel And A Nail,” that stays close to the classic O.V. Wright performance. The arrangement is fleshed out by Bukka Allen on organ. Borrowing one from the Ray Charles playbook, Stivers tears through “You’re Just About To Lose Your Clown,” getting strong support from Bobby Perkins on bass, Nico Leophonte on drums, Allen on organ one more time, and some muscular saxophone from Mark Wilson.

There is a touch of the Robert Ward sound on “One Night Of Sin,” a four minute testimonial to Stivers skills on guitar, with Odis Hill taking over on bass guitar. The disc ends with a vibrant instrumental workout on “Cold Sweat,” once again with the focus on Stiver’s fast-fingered playing, which always manages to sound clean and tasteful. While he doesn’t break any new ground, Brad Stivers holds your interest throughout this release, with a couple of tracks sure to put some pep in your step!

Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying life without snow. He is the President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and the past president of the Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!.

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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 10 

sould of john black cd imageThe Soul Of John Black – Early In The Moanin’

Cadabra Records

10 songs – 41 minutes

Early In The Moanin’ is a fascinating, if cryptic, release by The Soul Of John Black. Essentially a solo project for John Bigham, the former guitarist and keyboardist for pioneering ska-funk-punk band Fishbone, Early In The Moanin’ inhabits a modern soul-blues world where the focus is fundamentally on grooves and rhythms.

The music, by itself, is tremendous. Opening with the funky love song of “Can’t Be Helped”, Bigham sings with sly humour “The doctor says I can’t be helped – by nobody but thee – now lay some hands on me.” In groove and atmosphere, the track is reminiscent of Deep Purple’s 1974 funk-rock masterpiece “Sail Away”. Often with a relatively simple structure, each song on the album captures a mood and rides it. The solos are short and punchy, but the key to everything is the rhythm. “Crooked Leg” is a prime example, building from its opening funky bass line, every instrument drives the track forward as a multitude of voices combine over the top. The song stays on one chord throughout, but there is no let-up in tension or groove.

There is very little information easily available about the The Soul Of John Black. Neither the band’s website nor its Wiki entry is particularly detailed. The CD cover notes that Bigham wrote and produced all the songs on Early In The Moanin’, while the press release that accompanied the CD tells us that Bigham brought in various session players to contribute to the album, including Jake Najor (drummer with Big Daddy Kane), Mark Levy (Duradero Drums), Greg Camp (Smash Mouth singer and guitarist) and Curtis Sanford (drummer with R&B band, The Deele). It is not clear however what tracks they played on and whether there were other musicians who contributed. What can be said is that Bigham’s vocals and guitar playing are tremendous, and whoever else actually played on the songs deserves great credit.

Bigham’s own history is that, after growing up in Chicago, he worked with Miles Davis, Dr. Dré, Nikka Costa, Eminem among others, before settling in Los Angeles. He explains on his website: “Oddly enough, I didn’t get into really deep old school blues until I was working with Miles and he recorded songs with John Lee Hooker for the soundtrack to a movie called “The Hot Spot”. That music affected me profoundly. John Lee Hooker became one of my main guys. I also figured that if his music and Miles Davis’ could blend so beautifully, I should be able to find my own way of combining everything that I love. And that’s what The Soul of John Black is about.”

And this really is a pretty fair reflection of the music on Early In The Moanin’. The title track revolves around a simple-yet-hypnotic strummed guitar pattern; “Early Riser” is a stunningly beautiful acoustic ballad; “I Wish I Was Making Love” is a blues ballad with an aching introductory guitar solo; “Thursday Morning” has ghostly slide guitar underneath a gospel melody, recalling Blind Willie Johnson’s gospel-blues. The grinding “Chicago Blues” is closer to rock than blues with its hip-hop backbeat, but it remains oddly affecting. And closing track, “Sunset Drive” is a dreamy instrumental mixing hip-hop drums and acoustic guitars. There is blues in all the songs, but with equally large doses of soul, reggae and rock.

There is grit and beauty in this album, but above all there is rhythm and mood. It is a lovely release.

Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England, where he plays blues guitar when not holding down a day job as a technology lawyer or running around after his children. He is married to an American, and speaks the language fluently, if with an accent.

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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 10 

big daddy wilson cd imageBig Daddy Wilson – Neckbone Stew

Ruf Records

13 songs – 49 minutes

Singer-songwriter Big Daddy Wilson has a fascinating back-story, from being born and raised in the small town of Edenton, North Carolina, to joining the US military and serving in Germany, where he met his future wife and first heard the blues. He fell in love with both and, after leaving the military, settled in Germany, following that grand tradition of many US blues artists who found more success in Europe than at home. Think of Wilson as the latest to follow the path laid down by Champion Jack Dupree, Eddie Boyd, Louisiana Red and Memphis Slim – or even Luther Allison and Eric Bibb before they achieved success in the US.

Neckbone Stew is Wilson’s first album on Germany’s Ruf Records and the album title is a fair reflection of its contents – Wilson has thrown a lot of different ingredients into this record. There is traditional country blues, soul, pop, reggae, modern electric blues, gospel and funk, but what could have resulted in an unfocused, stodgy mess has actually produced a gumbo of exquisite taste and one to which you will find yourself returning regularly.

The title track is a good example, starting in a country blues style with Wilson’s warm, husky vocals backed only by Cesare Nolli’s heartfelt slide guitar, before the band kicks in after the first verse moving the track squarely into reggae territory.

On the other hand, “Running Shoes” has an infectious drone-like quality that sounds like what might happen if the Alan Parsons Project was populated with blues musicians; “My Babe” is an acoustic ballad that evolves into a reggae evocation of love; while “Damn If I Do” is a whip-smart funk work-out.

Wilson’s primary band comprises Paolo Legramandi on bass and backing vocals and Cesare Nolli on guitar, drums, percussion, keyboards and backing vocals. As with the musical genres he essays, however, Wilson is also happy throwing in a number of guest musicians in the confident expectation that they will enhance the music rather than diminish it. As a result, Eric Bibb and Staffan Astner add guitars to the gentle gospel shuffle of “He’ll Make A Way” and the comedy acoustic blues of “Cookies Gonna Kill Me” (a close cousin to Lonnie Mack’s classic “Oreo Cookie Blues”), which also includes Sven Lindvall’s honking tuba. Nik Taccori contributes drums to “7 Years”, Alessandro “Merols” Meroli adds horns and flute to a couple of tracks, Davide “Dave” Rossi adds keyboards to about half the album and the always-wonderful Ruthie Foster lends her golden voice to a terrific re-working of Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason”.

“Give Me One Reason” is the only cover on Neckbone Stew. Wilson either wrote all the other songs himself or co-wrote them with one or more of Nolli, Legramandi or Bibb.

Acoustic instruments are given at least equal treatment to electric instruments throughout Neckbone Stew. The album is book-ended by “Cross Creek Road”, which features Wilson alone with Nolli’s acoustic guitar on a traditional-style country blues, recalling the vitality and muscular power of early Alvin Youngblood Hart, while the closing “bonus” track, “Peanut Butter Pic” is a hilariously upbeat story about a chance encounter Wilson had with a peanut butter entrepreneur in New Zealand.

Neckbone Stew is a seriously impressive release, with well-constructed songs, powerful performances and cracking sound quality. This isn’t an album of funk or soul with some blues influences. Rather, it is a full-bore blues album with hints of everything else. With his warm, powerful voice, smart songs and willingness to stretch the boundaries of the blues, Wilson at times recalls the likes of Taj Mahal or Keb’ Mo’. High praise indeed. This is wonderful stuff.

Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England, where he plays blues guitar when not holding down a day job as a technology lawyer or running around after his children. He is married to an American, and speaks the language fluently, if with an accent.

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 10 

the great fraud cd imageThe Great Fraud – American Dream

Federal Records

15 tracks – 1 Hour, 8 Minutes

Born of basement jams in 2011 and 2012, Joe Marrero was the creator of the band. Singer, songwriter and guitar player, Morrero solicited Taso Zahariadis to play bass, Tony Marchesani to play drums and Reese Karlan to play harmonica. They won the 2012 NYC Hard Rock Battle of the Bands, released their first CD and made a splash in the NY/NJ area. Their second album of blues rock is entitled American Dream, something the band feels may not be real or at least attainable.

The band opens with “Life is Good,” a tune about a New Yorker who goes to Hollywood and gives up his local success to seek fame and fortune. It’s a stinging blues rocker with a heavy guitar lead and gritty vocals. The title track follows, another retro rocker, this time about the fiction of the American dream. Another massive guitar solo is included. “When You Are Lost In Your Mind” is next, with more of Marrero’s gritty and grimy vocals and a steady, driving mid tempo beat. An ethereal sounding bridge is featured here in this spooky sort of cut. Next up is “Down to the River to Drown.” At this point I’m thinking this is the urban, NY version of Drive By Truckers. Focusing on society’s flaws and foibles and the pain within everyday life seems to be the norm with these guys. And they sell it. “Johnny Boy”is a sparse acoustic guitar and vocals cut to tell us about a boy going off to war to die. The bass and drums come in but keep the feeling minimalistic and dark. and guess what? Johnny of course dies.

“Moonflower” is next and it’s a driving rocker with stratospheric guitar and shouted vocals. “Got to Run” follows, another uptempo and frenetic cut. Escaping life and it’s hardships is the theme here. “Idiot’s Paradise” is another commentary on society and how we learn to like some parts of life enough to accept the bad stuff we get forced down our throats. “Take Me Down Slow” follows, a very bluesy sounding track about meeting the devil (who is sleeping in their bed). “Looking Out For You” is a blues rocking rockabilly sort of cut about looking for his girl who is running around; it’s high energy and explosive stuff here with a harp and guitar solo to drink up.

“Troubled Man” is next up. Slide and other guitar with female backing vocals a and a grisly harp make this one interesting. “What About Me” asks why everyone else is getting help except me? Dueling acoustic guitars are featured here in this oddly interesting piece. “Ya Ain’t Got Love” tells us about the age old problem that no matter how much material stuff and money you have it matters not if you don’t have love. It’s a bouncy cut with slide guitar and lots of backing vocals about the poor young girl who can’t buy love despite her success. “Change Yourself” is a tune that tells about his girl having to change herself to get back to him and change her world. The CD concludes with “It’s All Over Now,” another dark cut about each of not being too significant in life. When we are gone the wars of life will go on.

The Great Fraud paint life in America as a deep and dark place. It’s an interesting commentary and the music is equally intriguing. Mostly rock, there is a little bit of blues flavor here and there and in the true sense of the word these guys really have the blues. If you like a rocking social commentary with a very deep and dark edge that verges on blues here and there this might interest you. It’s different and very catchy stuff!

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.

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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 10 

chrisbelleau cd omageChris Belleau – Swamp Fever

Proud Dog Records – 2017

8 tracks; 42 minutes

Louisiana’s Chris Belleau is a talented guy who plays trombone, harp and accordion as well as singing lead on all these tracks, six of which he wrote (three in collaboration with Billy E Henderson). Jon Smith’s sax combines with Chris’ trombone to form the horn section throughout. Nelson Blanchard engineered the sessions in Baton Rouge and plays guitar and keys; Mike Esnault also contributes keys to half the songs and there are two different rhythm sections, David Hyde and Brian Brignac and David Ellis and Keith Simoneaux doing the honours on bass and drums on four tracks apiece. The material ranges across classic blues, jazz and Louisiana swamp-pop.

Opener “Blues Is On The Rise” sets a moody atmosphere for a tale of how the blues gets into a young man’s heart, possibly an element of autobiography in the lyrics. Chris’ light voice carries the tune easily and the horn arrangement is excellent, Chris adding some solid harp work also. No Louisiana record should be without an accordion-driven tune like “Hold The One Who Cares” which brings back memories of Fats Domino in Nelson’s piano playing and Chris then shows his versatility with “Bienville Blues” which, despite its title, owes as much to jazz traditions as blues, a well crafted instrumental with both horns prominent, Chris trombone solo a particular delight. “The Healer” rejoins us all to find the healing power of love within ourselves over a soulful tune with plenty of tambourine and Chris’ harp.

We take a clear step into jazz with a superb version of Charles Mingus’ “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”, originally written as a tribute to the saxophonist Lester Young whose hat was his trademark. On this version Chris’ trombone and Jon’s sax combine beautifully on the elegant chorus with Mike’s electric piano sounding almost like vibes, both Chris and Jon featured solo later in the tune. Mingus having been a bassist himself it is appropriate that David Hyde’s bass is also to the fore in the mix – excellent stuff! If that was jazz, Louis Armstrong often represented the place where jazz met popular music and “When You’re Smiling” was a big hit for Louis. Chris sings it well but the arrangement is great, pure New Orleans with the rhythm section hitting that familiar New Orleans second line, Mike’s piano well in line with them and both horn players enjoying themselves.

“The Treater” explores the story of a backwoods sage who knows how to cure illness but has no formal qualifications but the Cajuns place their confidence in him. With Chris on both harp and accordion we are deep into Louisiana both musically and lyrically and the title track follows on in the same vein as Chris explains how he needs to get back to his home and to his lover to cure his “Swamp Fever”. The tune is relaxed and slow with Jon’s breathy sax starting things off as Chris recalls the dull side of being a touring musician who just wants to get home: “I’ve got to get back to Baton Rouge and find that girl from the bayou and let her kisses gently cool this swamp fever.” Chris’ laid-back trombone solo fits the song like a glove.

This is an album full of fine playing and varied material. Whilst not strictly a blues album, those who enjoy a blend of jazz and New Orleans influences should find this one to their taste. Recommended!

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.

 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 10 

rebekah Meldrom paul holdman cd imageRebekah Meldrum & Paul Holdman – Live At The Slippery Noodle

Slippery Noodle Sound SNS0016

14 songs — 62 minutes

Vocalist Rebekah Meldrum and her guitarist/vocalist partner Paul Holdman deliver an interesting collection of electric blues in this set, which was recorded live in Indianapolis, Ind., at the legendary Slippery Noodle Inn.

A preacher’s daughter who grew up in Southern California, Meldrum sang gospel in church, but was only eight years old in 1991 when she saw Koko Taylor perform on an episode of The Cosby Show. Even though she didn’t know at the time who Koko was, she knew one thing for certain: It was her destiny to become a singer.

When her father relocated to a church in Indianapolis, she quickly discovered the rich heritage and live music presented at the Noodle. Founded in 1850, it’s one of the longest running blues clubs in the world. A restaurant with two stages, it served as home base for blues mandolin player Yank Rachell and even kept open as a speakeasy and brothel during prohibition. She possesses a rich alto voice that’s steeped in her gospel background, and she makes her recording debut here.

Holdman, meanwhile, was a Hoosier friend from childhood. They reconnected in 2014 when he was recording a gospel album, entitled In The Hands Of God, and wanted to add Rebekah’s pipes to the mix. A smooth guitarist whose recording career dates to the mid-’90s with the blues-rock group Bangkok Rooster and includes work with soul-blues star Tad Robinson, he’s been fronting his own unit since the early 2000s and has two solo CDs to his credit. A baritone, he also possesses a warm, relaxed voice.

They’re assisted here by bassist David Murray and percussionist Kevin Kouts with Patrick Long contributing harmonica and vocals. While only four of the 14 tunes here are originals, and several of the covers will be familiar to anyone with a little musical knowledge, the stripped-down arrangements are fresh and the presentation carefully presented throughout. Though recorded live with an audience, the sound quality is as crisp as anything you’d hear coming out of a studio.

The album begins with a funky little number by bayou soul artist Marc Broussard. Entitled “Home,” it percolates with Rebekah handling vocals and Paul delivering a single-note run solo mid-tune. Buddy Guy’s “Midnight Train” pulls out of the station next with Holdman and Meldrum sharing a duet before “Gypsy.” Penned by Rebekah, it’s a straight-ahead blues ode to an unbothered woman who seems crazy, but simply doesn’t fit into their mold.

A run of four well-fashioned covers — James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s World,” Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “You Gotta Move,” Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks Of My Tears” and “House Of The Rising Sun” — follow before a pair of new tunes. Rebekah’s “Coat Tails” begins with another tasty, percussive guitar pattern before she sings about a young lady who’s ready to spread her wings and fly, while “Far Away” is a ballad that yearns for a wind from any direction that will carry the singer to a new life in the Delta.

Rebekah delivers Hoagie Carmichael’s “Georgia On My Mind” in an arrangement similar to the famous Ray Charles version aided by a sweet guitar solo before Holdman takes over for his gospel original, “Jerusalem,” delivered as a medium-tempo shuffle before three more covers — Elmore James’ “The Sky Is Crying,” The Ronettes’ “Baby I Love You” and Big Joe Williams’ “Baby Please Don’t Go” — bring the action to a close.

Available through Amazon and CDBaby, Live At The Slippery Noodle doesn’t cover any new ground, but Meldrum and Holdman are talented, and definitely worth a listen.

Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

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 Featured Blues Review – 9 of 10 

john lee hooker cd imageJohn Lee Hooker – Whiskey& Wimmen

Vee-Jay Records – 2017

16 tracks; 45 minutes

John Lee Hooker would have been 100 years old this year and so although the world hardly needs another compilation of his music, this is an appropriate time for this ‘greatest hits’ package and it does assemble many of his seminal recordings. Not surprisingly Vee-Jay dominates the track selection but there is space for a track each from Speciality and Stax. Predominantly recorded in Chicago, the collection also contains tracks recorded in NYC, Miami and Detroit. As ever with John Lee there is no regular band though Eddie Taylor plays guitar on four tracks and other names of note include Jimmy Reed and Joe Hunter.

The CD does not stick to a chronological order but plays the songs in a sensibly varied order. The oldest recording here is a 1954 cover of Rosco Gordon’s “No More Doggin’” which shows off John Lee’s guitar skills in a relaxed version recorded in a Detroit session that did not see the light of day until 1993 when Speciality released it. “Time Is Marching” comes from the following year with Jimmy Reed on harp and Eddie Taylor whose sinuous guitar features prominently on a 1956 version of “Dimples”, another tune often covered, perhaps most famously by the Allman Brothers. The lively “I Love You Honey” comes from 1958 and features some swinging piano from Joe Hunter while the following year finds John Lee solo on two more of his most famous songs, “Boogie Chillun’” and “Crawlin’ Kingsnake”.

As we move into the 1960’s John Lee was recording “Whiskey & Wimmen”, an LP only track that gives this collection its title, recounting how he has been brought down by the night life, accompanied by a loping rhythm. From the same session the similarly downbeat “No Shoes” made No. 21 in the R& B charts. John Lee also travelled to New York in 1960 where he recorded with a jazz rhythm section of Louis Hayes on drums and Sam Jones on bass on a relaxed take on Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford’s “Money” that sounds almost folky compared with the Beatles’ raucous version a few years later. The recording of “Boom Boom” here comes from 1961, its stop/start rhythms making it a natural to be covered widely and it became a staple of British bands in the 1960’s. “I’m Going Upstairs” is another LP only track but it is extremely rhythmic with John Lee and second guitarist William ‘Lefty’ Bates playing off each other well. Also recorded in 1961 (but only issued in 1969 by Stax) is an interesting duo performance of “Grinder Man” with Earl Hooker playing bass; it sounds like a very informal take but John’s vocals are first rate so it certainly merits inclusion here. 1962’s “Frisco Blues” is John Lee’s version of Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart In San Francisco”, performed as a slow blues featuring Hank Cosby on sax and Martha & The Vandellas on backing vocals. John Lee’s final sessions for Vee-Jay were in 1964 and are represented here by two cuts: he often covered Percy Mayfield’s “Memory Pain” in a version he called “It Serves Me Right To Suffer”; “Big Legs, Tight Skirt” clearly seem to have had a significant effect on John Lee in a hypnotic version.

Several of these songs would be re-worked by John Lee in the years to come, including performances by great names of rock and blues such as Carlos Santana and Bonnie Raitt but even though those later discs brought John Lee to a worldwide audience these Vee-Jay sides represent the essence of his talent, assembled here just in time for his centenary.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.

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 Featured Blues Review – 10 of 10 

the mojo stars cd imageThe Mojo Stars – Under The Influence

Self-Release – 2017

11 tracks; 47 minutes

The Mojo Stars are from Vancouver, Canada, and this is their second album. Formed around ten years ago the mainstays of the band are vocalist Randy Clarke and guitarist Mark Rankin who wrote, arranged and produced the songs here, supported by Tom Gould on saxophone, Steve Soucy and Kenny Boychuck on keys, Rob Marr on bass and Shawn Soucy on drums. The CD blends six songs captured live and five studio recordings; the material is varied, ranging across blues, soul and pop and Randy’s vocals work well across all the styles.

Opening with the title track the band sets a chugging rhythm over which Mark explains how he is in thrall to the girl and Mark adds a fine solo. “Why Can’t I Be True?” is a swinging piece with elements of country and rock and roll (especially in the rollicking piano playing) while “No Use In Crying” is a slower tune that features Tom’s sax and a confessional lyric that relates to being behind bars: “I ain’t got nobody to blame, ain’t no use in crying”. Mark’s latin-tinged riff sets the pace for “26 Banks” and the lyrics again reference crime as the protagonist recalls his time as a bank robber though despite being sentenced to a lengthy stretch inside he still savours “the rush, loving the score”. Tom’s sax playing is again a feature his exciting duel with Mark is well worth hearing.

“Stay A Little Longer” is a fine studio effort which is as much 80’s pop as Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes as it soars through a short but satisfying tree and a half minutes. The lyrics for the bouncy country rock number “Lost Love” are credited to Carly Clarke, the first of a run of three live cuts: “Why Didn’t You Know?” finds Randy regretting the end of a relationship over a slow tune, Tom finding a suitably ‘lost love’ tone in his solo and bassist Rob also getting a feature before Mark hits us with a fine solo; the amusingly titled “I Ain’t Feeling As Good As I Look” recounts the story of one of those ‘life and soul of the party’ types who is so under the influence that he is not likely to be a great success with the ladies, all played to a wild rock and roll tune.

Back in the studio we get a real smorgasbord of sounds on “Love What Have You Done” with jazzy sax, accordion, hand percussion and soaring Santana-esque lead guitar and organ swirls. On another live cut Randy invites his intended romantic partner to “Lock The Door Mama” on a swinging rocker and the album closes with a short studio track with a long title – “You Don’t Know Me And I Wish You Would” – which turns out to be a nice bit of rock n’roll with pumping piano and a catchy chorus.

Overall this is a solid CD with plenty of good tunes. All original, varied, well played and sung – plenty to enjoy.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.

 Featured Blues Interview – Rick Estrin 

rick estrin photo 1“I started going out to ghetto clubs.”

It was the dawn of the ’60s, and Rick Estrin was a white kid from the suburbs when he first took the street car into San Francisco to hang out on Market Street. He can’t remember whether he was 10 or 12 when he first ventured into a whole different world.

“I would hang out there on a Saturday afternoon. I went down to North Beach and did a thing for school. I interviewed beatniks. That was cool, but the teachers were pretty appalled. I would take the street car down to Market Street and put on slacks and some slick looking T’s – what I thought was slick looking then – and just trip on the people mostly.

“Here were places where I could sit in (on harp and singing), and even when I couldn’t play much – I wasn’t that good – I never played like an asshole. I tried to fit in with the music, and I always had in mind that I was trying to play the blues. All I wanted to do was be able to express myself in that language when I heard what moved me. For one thing, I was a novelty. I knew how to carry myself, and I always had some sense of how to fit in musically. Like I said, I never played like an asshole. I was just trying to play the stuff I heard that moved me.”

He was a white child in a very adult black society, an enticing world of forbidden fruit, and it beckoned him like a siren in the open sea. Meeting Muddy Waters’ white harp player Paul Oscher helped cement the young Rick Estrin’s fate. “When I first met Paul with Muddy, he was ahead of me in his development, but I aleady had that idea in my head. It was like, ‘Yeah, that’s the shit, man.’

“I don’t know if you ever saw that band. It was (guitarists) Luther “Snake Boy” Johnson and Pee Wee Madison. That was an evil looking band, and to me in my little teenage mind at the time, every one of those guys, especially Pee Wee and Snake, looked like they’d just as soon kill you as look at you, man, that wasn’t off putting to me. It was like I was just a twisted little sucker, man. I was like, man, I wanna be just like that.

“After a while I was really into it. White people can’t dance, can’t box, can’t play basketball, can’t play music, can’t sing. (The people I met) were so creative in their personal style and all that stuff. I don’t know. That’s beautiful culture. Can you imagine what a boring place this would be had it not been for the African people that got kidnapped or sold and brought here? Slavery was a horrible thing, but in the end it sure benefitted our culture.

“I would always go by myself, and that worked in my favor because they might have looked at me weird like, ‘What are ya doing’ here?’ But after a while it was, ‘You must just wanna be here!’ I can remember later on, especially when I was living in Chicago, being in a black club, and you’d see little groups of white people come in, and there was almost like a conspiratorial aspect to it, you know? So, I never had that. I think that gave me better acceptance. Then, too, back then, when I would get up and play and sing, I was blowin’ minds because it was such a freakish thing for a white guy to be doing.”

Estrin got his first harmonica at 15 and by 18 he was jamming with Lowell Fulson and opening shows for Z. Z. Hill. He played with guitarist Travis Phillips for a year in a band fronted by Fillmore Slim who was also a pimp immortalized in the film American Pimp. Slim introduced Estrin to singer Rodger Collins who would become Estrin’s first musical mentor.

“Rodger really pointed out a lot of stuff to me,” Estrin told me in 2009. “I wasn’t able to apply it until much later, (but) I think one of the key things is it has to be you. It has to be natural to you. You gotta develop it, and you gotta think about it and take some strategy and stuff like that, but in the end it’s gotta be you. Otherwise, it’s not gonna flow right. It’s not gonna come off right. People see though that shit, you know, instinctively.”

Estrin stands by that statement today and adds simply, “If I couldn’t be black, I wanted to be the only white guy.

“I remember when I was playing with Travis Phillips and the Wonder Boy, and he hired a white bass player. This was when I was 18 years old, so I was stupid, right? But the shit didn’t make sense. It’s just the way I was thinking at the time. He hired this white bass player, and on breaks and stuff I wouldn’t talk to the guy. I would be as far away from him as I could.

“I always tried to dress kinda slick. I had an uncle who was a rat pack kind of guy. He dressed slick and looked like Cary Grant, so I always tried to emulate him. That was part of me. I was too young to be able to utilize my personality like I do now. I hadn’t had enough exposure, but the seeds were about to be planted right then because of the Haight (Haight Ashbury section of San Francisco) and the Fillmore (Fillmore West, Bill Graham’s performing venue).”

rick estrin photo 2Bob Stroger may be the only contemporary blues artist who can match Estrin’s stage costumes. Dressed to the nines and topped with a pencil line mustache and pompadour, Estrin comes off as a blues answer to Snidely Whiplash, Dudely Do-Right’s nemesis on the Rocky The Flying Squirrel cartoons. Once in full regalia, including $600 alligator shoes, he has a standing policy not to be seen in the men’s room of any club in which he’s performing. “If somebody looks under the stall and sees my shoes, I’m no longer larger than life.”

At age 19 Estrin moved to Chicago to be closer to the home of the blues. “All of a sudden I had developed a small drug problem, and I thought I needed a change in scenery.”

And Chicago was going to help him with that?!

“Well, you know, I never said I was the smartest mother fucker in the world. What happened was a couple of years earlier I had met Jerry Portnoy. We were both trying to learn how to play the harp, and he’d come down to the Play Pen (in San Francisco) and saw me play the job with Fillmore Slim, and we were learning together.

“One of us would discover how to do something and call the other guy up and run over there. We’d kinda share our learning process on the harp. And he’s from Chicago, and when he asked to get himself out of the Army, he moved to San Francisco and was living there, and we were pals. Then, he had to go back to Chicago because his father was sick.

“He would send me post cards from Chicago. He was sitting in with The Aces and all this stuff. He was encouraging me to go there. I wasn’t doing so many gigs in San Francisco, and it sounded exciting. So, when I found this girl who liked me and had this job, I got her to buy me a plane ticket. That’s how I ended up in Chicago.”

By 1976 Estrin had gotten himself “in a real bad place” in Chicago and moved back to San Francisco where he hooked up with guitarist Little Charlie Baty. “He was always super talented. He might not have had as many chops (in the beginning), but if you’ve got that “thang,” you don’t need a bunch of chops, but I could tell right away when I started playing with him that he was special. He always could develop really exciting solos and stuff. He just loved the music, and he understood it emotionally, and also he understood it in some way that I can’t define, but he’s a soulful player, man.

For 32 years and nine LPs for Alligator Records, Estrin fronted Little Charlie & The Nightcats as their singer and harp player. In that time, they were nominated Band of the Year four times in the Blues Music Awards. Never mind that everybody thought singer and harp man Estrin was Charlie. It was a tradeoff.

“After a while people would call me Charlie and I’d just go, “Hey, how ya doin’?” I got sick of explaining. And if I felt really good, I would tell ’em, ‘Let’s hear it for Charlie on the guitar’ 50 times a night. ‘He’s Charlie, and my name is Rick,’ and they’d go, ‘Oh, ok, Charlie!’ So, I gave up, man.

“I was so glad I was playin’ with somebody who loved the same stuff, and who was into it the same way I was, and I had an opportunity to move out of the city and up to Sacramento and kind of get my shit together because I was a mess, man, and I really was wanting to change and he (salvaged) my life. I moved up there, and I could see it was a much slower environment. I didn’t know any dope fiends up there. (They) were like innocent kids that smoked weed and drank beer, and to me at that time that was just normal.”

In 2008 Little Charlie decided to retire. “His wife had died and he was having some health issues, and he’d threatened to retire. I didn’t believe it at first. I thought he was saying like he always said it. Then, random people in the audience started asking me, ‘Hey, what are ya gonna do?’ and I asked him, ‘Man, are you serious?’ And he said, ‘Yeah!’ So, I knew I’d better do something because I couldn’t be Charlie anymore. I had to teach people my name somehow, you know? It shows that even a lazy fucker like me, man, can get off his ass when he has to.”

For a while, Estrin went to Brazil and worked with Igor Prado and began to think of himself as a “low budget Chuck Berry.” The Nightcats’ keyboardist Lorenzo Farrell and drummer J. Hansen wanted to keep the band going. “I had no idea who to get on guitar because the one thing I really know is I did not want it to be a diminished version of Little Charlie and the Nightcats. If we were gonna keep it going, it had to be somebody that could really play, and I couldn’t think of anybody like that. I had worked with (guitarist) Kid Andersen on my little solo CD because he was just startin’ to be a recording engineer then. We were friends, but he was Charlie Musselwhite’s guitar player. He was a little more reserved with Charlie Musselwhite than he is with us.

rick estrin photo 3“He from time to time would sit in with us, and when he sat in I knew that guy could do it. I knew he just don’t give a fuck, man. He can play his ass off. He’s a real entertainer on the guitar. It’s like having a co-fool in the band. Anyway, he called me up about something else right after Little Charlie quit, and we were talking, and he said he had left Charlie Musselwhite. I asked him, ‘Hey, man, do you want try playing with us?’ And he said yeah. So, it was serendipitous. It was perfect. It was just perfect.”

Rick Estrin and the Nightcats picked up with Alligator Records where Charlie and the Nightcats left off. “(Alligator head) Bruce (Iglauer) was super helpful. He didn’t sign us right away, but he was really helpful and got us a booking agent, and we did a tour. Bruce came and saw the band. I don’t know if you could call it a suburb, but it was about 50 miles from Chicago, and that was as close as we could get booked.

“He came out and saw us and, man, there was nobody there, and I was nervous. He said, ‘Yeah, let’s make a record.’ Looking back as a senior citizen, those associations with Bruce and Little Charlie and just the pure dumb luck of meeting and hooking up with those guys changed my whole life, man. If it wouldn’t be for those two guys, I’d be pushing a shopping cart looking for cans and sleeping on a cot in my sister’s basement.”

There are certain white guys like Dr. John, Paul Oscher and Bob Margolin that just belong “with the band.” Rick Estrin is one of those guys. He doesn’t have to show a birth certificate to get into a dice game on the West Side. You can hear it on the Nightcats’ new album Groovin’ in Greaseland, their fourth Alligator album due out in August. On songs like “Dissed Again” and “Looking for a Woman” he sounds like The Coasters coming to grips with being taken advantage of yet again. Listen to how close Estrin’s vocals are to the Coasters’ original on “Clothes Line” on The Nightcats’ You Asked for It….Live CD. It’s interesting to note that Leiber and Stoller who wrote most of the Coasters’ material and coached them on their delivery were two white guys from Brooklyn. But that’s a story for another time. Suffice it to say, Groovin’ in Greaseland contains 13 original songs that reflect the character of – well – a character.

On “Dissed Again” he grouses about a gig where he has to wait while some 10-year-old kid who sounds just like Stevie Ray does his thing before the band can play. “Oh man, if you don’t have a sense of humor in this business, you’ll strike out, man. You gotta – I mean, I’ve always had a weird way of looking at things. Even in my darkest and most lost times in my life, I always had the ability to have some laughs, and I think that’s a lifesaver.”

Estrin’s major influence Rodger Collins wrote Wilson Pickett’s “She’s Looking Good.” Collins was Estrin’s Leiber and Stoller. “A couple of things he just pounded into me was you don’t settle for the first thing that pops into your mind, that easy rhyme, if you want to have the song develop and say something and make sense and to want to toe the line, meter-wise and all that. It’s gotta be consistent, and he also instilled in me that meant editing is key.”

“The Blues Ain’t Going Nowhere,” the first song on Groovin’ in Greaseland, is not the kind of plea you might expect from today’s “average white band” (my quotes, not Estrin’s) for the genre to stay around, but rather a statement about the sad state of the world offering fervent fodder for a continuing plethora of blues songs. “I Ain’t All That” is a more mature “I’m A Man” with a tad less braggadocio.

“I think the thing that I had naturally is a good internal compass, and I think I’ve said what I’m trying to say. Rodger was a soul singer and a rock and roll singer and an all-around entertainer. He could sing. He could dance and write songs, play guitar. I don’t know why he took me under his wings. Maybe he could see I was really paying attention to the things he was tellin’ me, and he just befriended me and took me to school and taught me a lot about show business and how to entertain people, also about songwriting and just that he always encouraged me to write, and he taught me not to settle.

“A lotta songs to me now, especially in blues are, ‘Ok, we’ll write this song, the quickest route to a guitar solo.’ and you know, he clued me to – I don’t know how to say it – but I want each song to be a whole little thing, man. I’ve always appreciated songs. My sister had records by Mose Allison, Jimmy Reed, and the Coasters, great songwriting. Stuff like that really tripped me out, and I love that as far as being able to write songs that tell a story.”

Greaseland is the name of Kid Andersen’s San Jose studio. Andersen took home a 2017 Blues Music Award for his studio work with artists including Elvin Bishop, Wee Willie Walker, John Nemeth, and three Nightcats CDs. He wrote the instrumental “Mwah” on Groovin’in Greaseland as an homage to the late Lonnie Mack, best known for his seminal Wham of the Memphis Man LP released in the 1960s.

“Actually, the title “Mwah” is almost like “Wham” backwards,” says Estrin. “He loved Lonnie Mack and wanted to come up with a tribute song. Lonnie Mack was kind of underappreciated. I mean guitar players dig him, but Kid just felt like he doesn’t have the legendary status he should have, and he had the misfortune of dying the day Prince died, so he didn’t get much attention.”

rick estrin photo 4Estrin’s “co-fool” on keyboards Lorenzo Farrell is an extremely versatile and eclectic keyboardist who adds texture to the Nightcats’ sound. He has a philosophy degree from Berkeley and studied religion in India. “He’s the best, man. Lorenzo’s the key to this band’s longevity. He really is. He’s just a leveling factor in the interpersonal dynamics. Yeah, he’s great, man. Obviously, he’s really smart, you know.

“He went and lived in India because he was studying philosophy I think when he was a teenager. He was 17 and living by himself and back packing in India. I told him, ‘Man, once you’ve wiped your ass with your bare hand, and just rinse it off. Man! That’s some character building shit there, man.’ He’s just cool, man. You know?”

The day before I talked to Estrin, he’d played at a memorial service for James Cotton in Austin along with a coterie of legacy harp players including Kim Wilson, Jimmy Vaughan, Annie Raines and Paul Oscher.

“Of all the players I know, Cotton was the guy I would see most often. He could play old school 1960s Chicago blues, and then later on he got a pretty funky band, that band with Matt Murphy and his harp playing in that type of group he was modern and totally traditional at the same time. His timing was like Johnny Guitar Watson on the guitar or Albert Collins, Albert King, too. Those guys play the same stuff over more modern beats, and it would work. It lends itself to transcendence all the time – you know, stylistic changes of time. So, speaking for myself, whenever we do songs that are a different kind of groove, that’s my kind of reverence. That’s what I automatically think of. I go into my old Cotton bag. I can’t even imagine what I’d play like or what I could have even made a career out of his stuff, man, without Cotton.

“When I first heard that record (Chicago The Blues Today) I understand something I never understood before. I don’t know how to explain it, but after that I had it. It was very clear in my mind. I got this idea that I wanted to be able to scare people. As a kid, that’s how I felt. I’m not saying that’s a goal now. But at the time that was how I felt at the time ’cause I felt like there was such an aura of menace to his playing. It was so awesome in the true sense of the word, you know.

“At the memorial Paul Oscher was saying he got these records as a kid, and when he would read the back of the record, it would talk about somebody at these bars where somebody pulled some knife and the police – you now – and gambling and guys sitting around on their knees shooting dice and stuff like that. He was like. ‘I wanna be there and that’s the shit to me,’ I wanted to be a part of that, you know?

“I’m gonna keep doing it until I either can’t do it, or nobody will come to see me. That’s my life. I don’t know what I would do otherwise. I got no hobbies. My job? I got a job being myself. And I still love writing new songs and even though I hate to – the beginning of the process I’m always really resistant to it, but I still love doing it, and I love when I’m in it. And I love the results.

“You gotta keep active. You must know because you’re still active. I believe once your prime reproductive years are over, mother nature starts trying to kill your ass in all kinds of different ways. Some of ’em are very subtle and insidious and it’s just like telling me, ‘Well, you can take it easy. You’re tired. You earned it.’ It’s like Satchel Paige (African American lifetime best pitcher): Don’t look back. Somebody’s gaining on your ass.”

Visit Rick’s website at:

Interviewer Don Wilcock has been writing about blues for nearly half a century. He wrote Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues, the biography that helped Buddy Guy jumpstart his career in 1991. He’s interviewed more than 5000 Blues artists and edited several music magazines including King Biscuit Time.

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Sacramento Blues Society – Sacramento, CA

It is with great pleasure that we announce the 2017 Sacramento Blues Society Hall of Fame Inductees. They are: Bill Scholer, Fred “Deacon” Baker, Kenny “Obie Dee” Van Cromphaut, Stan Powell, and Tim Wilbur. And special HOF Induction Presentation for the late Jay Peterson by 2010 SBS Hall of Fame Members Rick Estrin and Charles Baty.

Please join us for the Induction Ceremony on Sunday, September 24, 2017 from 1 pm – 5:00 pm at Harlow’s, 2708 J St, Sacramento, CA (SBS members $10, non-members $15) followed by an after party from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the nationally known Torch Club, 904 15th St, Sacramento, CA.

For more additional information:

Long Beach Blues Society – Lohg Beach, CA

The Long Beach Blues Society is proud to present New Blues Festival 4, Saturday, September 2 and Sunday, September 3 (Labor Day Weekend) at El Dorado Park in Long Beach, Calif. 2017 Contemporary Blues Album Nominee Janiva Magness and Serbian-born guitar great Ana Popovic, along with Blues legend Guitar Shorty and Chris Cain, headline a strong 2-day Main Stage lineup. Vendor Village, Craft Beers on Tap, BBQ Vendors, Gourmet Food Trucks, and more. The Golden Groove Stage will feature performances by many of the Southland’s best Blues acts.

More info at or

The Blue Jay Jazz Foundation – Blue Jay, CA

Blue Jay Jazz Foundation presents The King Brothers Thursday, August 10 (at 6 p.m.)at SkyPark at Santa’s Village, the entertainment and dining destination that reopened in 2016. The King Brothers are bringing the blues back to the San Bernardino Mountains to kick off the 2017 Blue Jay Jazz Festival concert series.

The Brothers, whose first Festival appearance in 2007 helped launch a serious blues component to the Blue Jay event, established a new standard of blues while staying true to a solid blues tradition. Drummer Sam and guitarist-vocalist Lee have played, toured and recorded with their cousin Freddie King and their “adopted uncle” Albert King. Their recent CD is Get up and Shake It, which All About Jazz called “blues played the way it should be, by guys who have been doing it for a while.”

The series is produced by the non-profit Blue Jay Jazz Foundation and continues with Greg Adams and East Bay Soul on August 17 and Adrianna Marie and her Groovecutters on August 24. More at

Southeast Iowa Blues Society – Fairfield, IA

The 4th Annual “Blue Ribbon Blues Fest” presented by the Southeast Iowa Blues Society (SIBS)is August 12th, 2017 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Fairfield, IA. The fest features Rob Lumbard, Danielle Nicole Band, Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials and with Tony Blew between acts

Gates Open at 4:30 with music beginning at 5pm. Beverage Garden and BBQ & more…No Outside Food or Drinks Bring your chairs and Camping is available. Tickets – Advance $20 and SIBS members / Day of Show – $25

For more info. go to or call 641-919-7477 or 641-233-7438

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee, IL

Thur, July 27 – Albert Castiglia, The Longbranch in L’Erable IL, Tues, Aug 08 – Frank Bang & Cook County Kings, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, Tues, Aug 22 – Jeff Jensen, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, Tues or Wed, Nov 7 or 8 (TBD) – Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat, Manteno Sportsmen’s Club. More Info at:

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for Blue Monday live performances held every Monday night at The Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 8:00pm to midnight. Additional information on any performer listed below is available upon request.

Blue Monday Schedule: July 31 – Skyla Burrell, Aug. 7 – Lil Joe McClennan, Aug. 14 – Andy T & Alabama Mike, Aug. 21 – Lucky Loser’s, Aug. 28 -Green McDonough Band.

Additional ICBC partnered shows: Aug. 3 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm Dan Rivero Trio, Aug. 17 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm Sam Crain Trio, Aug. 26 – Old Capitol Blues & BBQ Festival – Mary Jo Curry, Albert Castiglia, Lil’ Ed, Aug. 27 – Old Capitol Blues & BBQ Festival – James Armstrong, Kenny Neal, Eric Gales. For more information visit

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